Champions of Service: Celebrating Student Mentees


Colgate University is such a massive presence in Hamilton that it can sometimes seem like the University itself is indistinguishable from the town. But, really, we are just visitors here, fortunate enough to enjoy the hospitality that we have been given. We owe a lot to this community—they’ve taken us in and given us a second home. We sometimes take this for granted. Fortunately for everyone, there is a strong contingent of Colgate students who champion the values of volunteerism and community service, and they’ve gone to great lengths to give back to the community that has given us so much through their leadership with mentorship organizations.

Senior Eliza Trainer is a member of the Madison Mentors club (M&M’s). The club focuses on giving back to Hamilton’s youth. 

“Each week, we carpool to [Hamilton Central] school and meet with a designated mentee for 30 minutes […] we engage in a variety of activities like board games, drawing, discussing the highs and lows of the students’ week, and more,” Trainer said.

The tutors are entrusted to set a positive example for the mentees in many different regards.

“The students we work with are selected by teachers and counselors at the school as individuals who would benefit from one-on-one mentoring as they deal with familial, behavioral, or social challenges. M&M mentors and their students form a close mentoring relationship during the mentor’s four years at Colgate, and [they] strive to help the Madison student grow and learn from an older role model,” Trainer explained. 

Trainer has been with M&M’s for almost the entirety of her four years at Colgate. As someone who wanted to engage with the local community, she was in the club for the long haul since joining her first year.

“I joined M&Ms as a mentor my [first year] year because I wanted to be involved with the community surrounding Colgate and I have always loved working with kids. Throughout my four years of mentoring, my mentee, Heiydien, and I have gotten very close and established a great bond that I will certainly miss when I graduate this spring. It’s such a rewarding experience to serve as a role model for children in our community who may not typically have access to these positive, stable relationships,” Trainer said. 

Sophomores Jessie Brazeau and Jack Hyams are officers of the Sidekicks Club. Similar to M&M’s, Sidekicks’ focus is on matching students from the local school with a Colgate student who serves as a positive role model and friend. 

“We pair kids from Hamilton Central School with Colgate students to form kind of like a mentoring-friend relationship. It helps us get involved with the community, which is really lovely. [Volunteers] are expected to see their sidekick every week or every couple weeks,” Brazeau explained. “Most people get paired their [first-year] or sophomore year at Colgate. The goal is to stay with [your mentee] throughout their entire time at Colgate, so you really get a chance to foster a close bond. You really get to see them grow and get older throughout your time at Colgate.” 

Sidekicks is a unique type of mentorship and one that makes each student-mentee pair have a significant impact on each other’s lives. 

“[The club allows] you [to] really build a strong relationship with your sidekick. I’ve seen mine every week for at least an hour since freshman year—barring breaks—and we’ve developed a really close bond. We have one person in the club who had a sidekick as a mentor when he grew up in Hamilton, and now he has a sidekick as a mentee,” added Brazeau.

Brazeau and Hyams understand how important it is to give back to the community in Hamilton. They also love what they do at the club.

“It’s kind of a mix of fulfillment and I also just think it’s also nice to give back to the community. We’re so caught up with our schoolwork, and taking an hour a week to meet with our sidekick is a way to put the stress of academics on pause while also doing a good service to the community,” Hyams said.

“I’d definitely agree with what [Hyams] said. I’m also in the teacher prep program and am considering being an elementary school teacher, so just getting to spend time with the kids and getting to know them better is something I find really rewarding,” Brazeau added.

Both Brazeau and Hyams shared heartwarming stories about recent meetings with their sidekicks, with Brazeau recounting when just last weekend, she and her sidekick had walked around Hamilton delivering Girl Scout Cookies.

“It was really sweet. We carried a wagon around, we went on campus and delivered to people—it was just really nice to see her doing all the stuff that I used to do as a kid,” Brazeau said.

Hyams recalled how he and his sidekick recently had gone to the library in town, then Maxwell’s, and finally to Huntington Gym for a whirlwind afternoon.

“We played soccer and I was just, like, the goalie for an hour and a half while he took penalty kicks,” Hyams recalled fondly.

Perhaps the most amazing and rewarding part about M&Ms, Sidekicks, and other similar clubs on Colgate’s campus is that they let us grizzled veterans of the college world see things through a kid’s eyes again. The students that volunteer with them can’t be praised enough for the goodwill that they bring to Hamilton. It’s hard to think of a better way to give back.